Cornell has had several connections to the NBA over the years, as three former Big Red players made their way into the League with a total of 12 players being drafted over the years.
Nat Militzok was the first Cornellian to play in the NBA, seeing time for both the Toronto Huskies of the Basketball Association of America (BAA) (the predecessor of the NBA) and New York Knicks during the 1946-1947 season. In 57 total NBA games, Militzok averaged 4.3 points. Militzok also played in what is considered the first NBA game in history when he suited up for the Knicks against the Huskies in Toronto on November 1, 1946.
The longest NBA career among Cornellians belonged to Ed Peterson, who played a season with the Syracuse Nationals (the predecessor of the Philadelphia 76ers) in 1949-1950 before suiting up for the Tri-City Blackhawks (the predecessor to the Atlanta Hawks) the following year. In 115 NBA games, Peterson averaged 7.0 points. He averaged 12 points per game for Cornell in 1947-1948.
Gene Berce played three games for Tri-City during the 1949-1950 season after being drafted by the New York Knicks a year earlier. He averaged 3.3 points and 0.7 assists.
The highest drafted Cornell player was Lee Morton ‘54, going 25th overall in the third round to the Rochester Royals in the 1954 draft. Both George Farley ‘60 (Fifth round, 34th overall in 1960) and Louis Jordan ‘59 (6th round, 42nd overall in 1959) have also gone among the top 50 players drafted.
CORNELLIANS IN THE NBA DRAFTAdditionally, former Big Red players, Cody Toppert ‘05 and Jeffrion Aubry ‘99 have played in the National Basketball Development League (NBA D-League), the NBA’s minor league.
YEAR PLAYER TEAM ROUND OVERALL
1948 GENE BERCE NEW YORK — —
ROBERT GALE ST. LOUIS — —
ED PETERSON NEW YORK — —
1951 PAUL GERWIN PHILADELPHIA 10 85
1952 FRED EYDT BOSTON — —
1954 LEE MORTON ROCHESTER 3 25
1956 CHUCK ROLLES SYRACUSE — —
1959 LOU JORDAN DETRIOT 6 42
1960 GEORGE FARLEY MINNEAPOLIS 5 34
1963 JERRY SZACHARA NEW YORK 13 81
1968 GREGG MORRIS BALTIMORE 17 200
1985 KEN BANTUM NEW YORK 7 142
During the summer of 2010, Cornell graduates, Ryan Wittman ('10), Jeff Foote ('10) and Louis Dale ('10), were each invited to multiple NBA workouts with several franchises. Wittman ultimately played with two NBA teams, the Celtics and the Knicks, in their respective summer leagues.
Off the court in the NBA, Bryan Colangelo ‘87 was named the NBA’s Executive of the Year in 2005 as the team president and general manager of the Phoenix Suns and currently serves in the same role for the Toronto Raptors organization. A former player for Cornell, Colangelo appeared in 15 games for the Big Red during the '86-'87 season.
Larry Tannenbaum '68 has a B.S. in Economics from Cornell and serves as the Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Toronto Raptors. He was a primary force in bringing the Raptors to Toronto as an expansion team.
Steve Belkin, a graduate of Cornell's School of Engineering (B.S. Industrial Engineering), is an owner of the Atlanta Hawks.
Tom Glick, V.P., Chief Marketing Officer for the New Jersey Nets, graduated Cornell's College of Arts and Sciences (B.A., Government).
The New York Knicks' medical team also includes a pair of Cornell Medical School professors in Dr. Answorth A. Allen and Dr. Lisa Callahan.